Friday, December 11, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

I bet nobody saw SP's pick coming today. Oh wait...

Anyway, here are the No. 14 albums of the year, in the humble opinions of our panel.

Ali Mason

Broken Records - Until The Earth Begins To Part (4AD)

Track: If Eilert Loevberg Wrote A Love Song, It Would Sound Like This

Pretentious, earnest, overblown...this really shouldn't work, but it's simply exhilarating to listen to. Broken Records take folk influences from their native Scotland and eastern Europe and weave them into a thrilling brand of triumphant, epic indie rock, which feels at times almost as important as they clearly intend it to. Plus, as a former drama student, it's hard not to like a band who think they way to make popular music is to write a love song from the point of view of a character from a Henrik Ibsen play.

Rory Dollard

The Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (Domino)

Track: Two Doves

Dirty Projectors are a band I tried to avoid for some time. Too much hype, too many flowery adjectives attached to their fans. I was, of course, wrong. Bitte Orca is hardly an album to singalong to, it might even be hard to fall in love with – such are the spiky patterns and frequent detours – but it is one that is endlessly challenging and thoroughly rewarding. Harmony and rhythm are treated like play-doh as they are bent and moulded at will by mastermind Dave Longstreth, who has assembled a team of musicians versatile enough to fulfil his vision.

Dom Farrell

Wilco - Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch)

Track: Solitaire

These guys are just very good at the old music. It’s easy to take a good Wilco record for granted because of their seemingly effortless consistency over the last decade or so. Following on from 2006’s Sky Blue Sky ,Wilco (The Album) is perhaps less eclectic that some previous efforts, but we are still left with a deftly woven collection of songs ranging from the low-fi widescreen of murder tale Bull Black Nova, the delicate Solitare and the soaring I’ll Fight. Subtle nuances sit alongside rousing choruses, never once crowding one another. Wilco are a band who are thoroughly aware of how to make excellent albums and long may they continue doing so.

Andy Welch

The Wild Beasts - Two Dancers (Domino)

Track: All The King's Men

Now you either love Wild Beasts or the very sound of them makes your ears bleed. It’s all down to Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto, which is just breathtaking. So many bands fail to deliver on the promise of their debut, but in Wild Beasts we have a band that took the core ingredients of what made their debut, Limbo, Panto, so very interesting, and managed to develop the idea further, and more importantly, improve on it. It’s easy for a band to be weird for the sake of it, but it’s even easier to see through. Obtuse lyrics, theatrical flourishes and depressing, morose imagery alongside fabulous pop melodies, though? Now you’re talking.

Guy Atkinson

The Horrors - Primary Colours (XL)

Track: Scarlet Fields

Yeah, they burst into the public conscience looking like a bunch of thundering gits and boasting barely a handful of tunes but there was always something that drew me to The Horrors. Thankfully, they fulfilled my early faith in them and conjured up a dreamy second album that doesn't just give a wry nod in the direction of Joy Division; it thumps its head back and forward with the force of a pneumatic drill. They've toned down the Stooges-influenced jams of their debut and branched out to embrace a much fuller sound, incorporating gothic synths, psychedelic guitars and tuneful pop ditties to impressive effect.

Pranam Prabhakar

Dinosaur Jr - Farm (PIAS)

Track: Pieces

Early copies of this album were withdrawn because they were mastered too loud. Too loud! Whatever happened to rock and roll?! Dinosaur Jr continue to be raggedly glorious in a climate that is sometimes too mannered and too predictable for my liking. I can’t imagine J Mascis ever agreeing to hit his lighting cue on time. And for this reason I love him. Crank the dial to 11.

John Skilbeck

Love Is All - A Hundred Things To Keep Me Up At Night (What's Your Rupture)

Track: Movie Romance

The Swedes had a line-up change between first and second albums but their sophomore record offered precious little hint of out with the old, in with the new. Rather A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night was a natural successor to 2005’s utterly brilliant Nine Times That Same Song, the sound of an old friend with more to say and a slightly dandyish new makeover. Its arrival in the UK was oddly delayed, so the rest of the world had this in 2008, but the wait was worth it. Over 11 tracks of frantic, almost breathless sax-fuelled post-punk, Josephine Olausson chronicles the absurdities and anxieties of (her own?) single life. From a half-hearted one-night stand (Last Choice) to escaping modern life by cruising the seas on a boat packed with OAPs (Sea Sick), to desperation (Wishing Well – the album’s big !POP! moment), it seems being the successful frontwoman of an exhilarating disco party band is not in itself enough to buy a good night’s sleep. Nevertheless, this record was packed with more thrilling verses than most bands will fit into a lifetime of choruses. To these ears at least it was dreamy.

Matt Collins

Passion Pit - Manners (Frenchkiss Recordings)

Track: Little Secrets

I always wondered why the Bee Gees insisted on that crazy falsetto when they sang. What's wrong with singing in your own pitch? Nevertheless, it's a trick that Passion Pit are keen to repeat, as almost every line of this disco-indie-funk-rock record hovers round the upper echelons of the male voice's capability. From opening pulsating anthem Make Light through to the how-the-hell-did-they-make-that-work children's choir backed up single The Reeling, this is truly a record to dance / pogo / sing / leap about to, depending who you are and how you happen to be feeling.


Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Twice Born Men (EMI)

Track: Truth Only Smiles

If Elbow had been discovered stranded on a windswept North Sea island some time in the 19th century, they might have sounded something a little like Sweet Billy Pilgrim. One of the year's most assured and disquieting debuts matched pattering percussion, lonesome banjos and dusty sound effects to brilliant effect. This is perhaps the least immediate album on my list, but repeat listens reward the curious.


Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (Nettwerk)

Track: Pulling On A Line

Like the Avett Brothers yesterday, this is a case of a band making their best album to date as they reach number four. Tony Dekker's crew have always produced a beautiful sound and that changes not one jot here, but the gentle rhythms are given greater variety to offer a more satisfying listen.


  1. Hats off to Akko for "thundering gits" the best piece of description so far in this blog

  2. Also...something very strange is happening to me as a result of this blog. The more they appear the more i find myself inching ever closer to buying The Horrors album and the Wild Beasts album.

    I was one of those blokes who wrote both off as interminable sets of arseholes but your collective thoughts appear to be turning me...